It’s the same adrenaline rush that comes with playing basketball or soccer, but it isn’t played on a court or on a field. It’s the same excitement that might be heard from a crowd at a hockey game, from the crowd watching competitors face off in games of League of Legends, Super Smash Bros, and more.
It is esports competition, officially launching varsity and club sport this fall to U of R’s esports arena in University Hall. In the gaming space, lined with bright strips of light, live 36 stations, each with a computer and chair, where competitors sit with their attention intensely focused on the game in front of them. As spectators walk in, it will be evident to them they have entered the world of esports.
Esports is growing in popularity at high schools and universities across the United States and among a younger crowd. Children from foster youth homes are coming to the U of R campus for monthly competitions. Teams of five compete against crews from other youth homes, playing one-on-one battles until the last player is standing. The foster youth had their first practice tournament in March at the School of Education and competed in their second practice tournament this past weekend. When the esports facility at Redlands is completed, the foster youth will hold competitive, monthly tournaments in the new, state-of-the-art gaming facility.
The participating three foster homes have kids ranging in age from middle school to high school, and each home has gaming console systems set up so the youth can take part in weekly practices to improve their esports gaming.
The foster youth are coached by U of R students who compete in esports at the university level, under the supervision of the program’s director, Jacob Beach.
Jeremyah Bradley ‘24, majoring in Health, Medicine, and Society, became a coach to become more involved in his community. He visits the foster homes to provide coaching on Super Smash Bros, a character crossover fighting game. Jeremyah coaches the students by providing lessons in combo moves, reviewing recorded games, and analyzing their opponents' strategies, and said he often reminds students that “growth is a process, not a result.” Seeing the foster youths’ commitment, discipline, and excitement during practices and competitions are some of the reasons why Jeremyah loves being a coach.
Beach believes esports not only helps to facilitate teamwork, responsibility, and sportsmanship, but also enables foster youth to discover new interests they may not have otherwise been exposed to. They are exposed to new opportunities, he said, such as networking, competing at a university level, and coaching by experienced and professional students and staff.
A. P., a foster youth enrolled at San Bernardino Valley College, said he enjoys “meeting new people who are also passionate about gaming and learning new strategies or moves from them.”
Although esports may seem like all fun and video games, it is much more than that, especially for those involved with the Student Success Partnership (SSP) — the collaborative of U of R’s School of Education, the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools, Foster Youth Coordinating Program, and Starshine Group Home, formed to provide academic support and interactive engagement for local foster youth. Catherine Walker, SSP co-director, believes foster youth who participate are inspired by students like Jeremyah to not only continue esports in the future but aspire to attend a university as well.
Foster youth and high school senior E. M. said he uses esports to “destress from school” and is interested in playing esports in college while majoring in a discipline “that will prepare [him] for a successful career.”
To learn more about the Student Success Partnership click this link.
To learn more about esports at the U of R click this link.